Laser Powder Bed Fusion (PBF-LB/M) Process Strategies for In-Situ Alloy Formation with High-Melting Elements
In-situ alloy formation by Laser Powder Bed Fusion (PBF-LB/M) from mixtures of easily available elemental powders is an appealing approach for developing and qualifying new alloys for laser based additive manufacturing of metals. However, especially when dealing with high-melting elements, like W, Ta, Mo, or Nb, it is difficult to achieve a homogeneous element distribution and a complete fusion of the powder particles. The aim of this work was to understand the effects of the PBF-LB/M process parameters (laser power, scan speed, laser spot diameter) and three different single- and double-exposure strategies on the fusion of high-melting W, Ta, Mo, and Nb particles in a Ti-matrix. For this purpose, 220 samples with 10 vol.% of the high-melting particle fraction were prepared and analyzed by optical light microscopy and automated image processing, as well as by scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The results are discussed in the context of current research on the process dynamics of PBF-LB/M. Based on that process strategies to support a complete fusion of high-melting particles during in-situ alloy formation are derived. It is shown that the number of unmolten particles can be at least decreased by a factor of ten compared to the most unfavorable parameter combination. For the lower melting elements, Nb and Mo, a complete fusion without any remaining particles visible in the microsections was achieved for certain parameter combinations. The results prove the feasibility of in-situ alloy formation with high-melting alloying elements, but they also demonstrate the necessity to adjust the PBF-LB/M process strategy to achieve a complete dissolution of the alloying elements.